Friday, November 16, 2012

52: 18

Newfoundland is

remembering the past.

There are many things I've really come to love about Canada. One of my favorite things is how seriously they take remembering their veterans, particularly the World War I and II vets.

So Monday was Remembrance Day and the whole town was shut down on Sunday and Monday. In the weeks before, I had small children coming to my door selling me poppies for my lapel to wear. Public service announcements talked about the role Canadian troops played in the wars.

And here in Newfoundland, Remembrance Day is important, but they also have another solemn day of remembrance on July 1 (which is Canada Day as well) in honor of the Battle at Beaumont-Hamel during World War I.

On that day, the Newfoundland first regiment went into battle with 801 men. By the next day only 68 were able to answer roll call.

At the end of World War I, 6,200 Newfoundlanders had served in the British military, and three quarters of the regiment that served in battle lost their lives. Many of those who didn't lose their lives returned home wounded or disabled, which naturally had a devastating impact on the province.

The resurgence of this province is a testament to it's generations of hardy people.

Here in Newfoundland, remembrance seemed to be on everyone's mind for the entire month, not just the one day. The sincerity Canadians feel toward this holiday is beautiful to behold.

We celebrate our veterans in the U.S. as well, but our version has a different tone somehow. It feels more commercialized, less community minded, and in some ways hypocritical.

As a nation, I think we forget about our men and women in uniform until these holidays roll around. We chant USA and wave flags and feel glad that we have a day off from work or school.

I do believe this holiday is important, and it draws some complex feelings out of me.

I am not anti-military. In fact, I think that everyone should be forced to serve time in the military as the citizens of Israel do. I think if everyone had a son or daughter that could be put in harms way for the good of our nation, our leaders would be much more cautious and thoughtful about our military decisions. And the people of our country would not be able to distance themselves from our foreign policy decisions, as we are so apt to do because we are not all personally affected by them.

I think proof of the way we distance ourselves from the wars we are involved in can be seen by taking a look at how rarely the war in Afghanistan shows up in our news cycles.

In the United States, the veterans that immediately pop to my mind on Veteran's Day are the ones who went to war in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, all of which are wars that have no clear victor and no clear purpose.

Our Veteran's Day leaves me disheartened because I question why so many of these men and women had to die, or come home injured or shell shocked. We are told they were "defending our freedom." I have the highest respect for those in the military and their families, but I don't totally understand how their roles in Vietnam or Iraq actually made our country freer. I sincerely hope this is just a testament to my ignorance and that the soldiers who actually are under enemy fire can articulate how their job contributes overall to keeping the Unites States of America safe.

I think I would make a horrible soldier because I'd want to know how my job fits into the bigger scheme of things, and I would question every decision being made. But these men and women put their trust in their commanders, who put their trust in intelligence groups and our nation's leaders- who led us into a purposeless war after 9/11. It makes me wary. All those lost lives seems like such a waste of our nation's youth and vitality and I'm filled with depression.

So I'm thankful to the poppy, and the effect it seems to have had on Canadian policy making. Remembering the troops that were lost in these earlier wars seems to have affected Canadian involvement in later wars.

Sorry this is such a serious, downer post. I hope I didn't offend anyone.

When I begin writing these posts, I never know where they will take me. But no worries. I'm sure the next one will lead me to soliloquy about baby vomit or teething woes or the like.

Have a great weekend!

See the original Project 52 on Styleberryblog here.

My Project 52: 

Newfoundland is...
52:1: Mostly Grey and Wet
52:2: Childhood Dreams Coming True
52:3: An Opportunity for Growth
52:4: Shifting Priorities
52:5: Blue Bays
52:6: Early Fog-filled Mornings
52:7: Sunsets
52:8: Pajama Parties
52:9: Far Away From Grandparents
52:10: An Opportunity to Save
52:11: Staying Creative
52:12: Succumbing to Autumn
52:13: Friendly Neighbors
52:14: Bedtime Rituals
52:15: Lots of Paperwork
52:16: Soup Weather
52:17: Little Wonders

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